Bimini Bait Shack, a seafood restaurant, tiki bar and grill located just before the Sanibel Causeway, plans to reopen in the first two months of 2023 following damage from Hurricane Ian.
First opened in 2018, Bimini’s island atmosphere with live music, swings, and a fish bar has kept guests coming back. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants saw their customer base plummet, Bimini general manager Amy Lawrence said the restaurant’s numbers were holding up at the average.
Serving around 500 guests daily, with 1,000 to 1,200 guests on weekends, the Bimini team awaits reopening while repairs are underway.
The restaurant experienced approximately 9 to 10 feet of storm surge and 140 mph winds. Since the restaurant sits on pole structures approximately 16 to 20 feet in the air, minimal water ingress occurred at the front of the restaurant. “Anything damaged inside was caused by either roof damage or wind damage,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence plans to redo the restaurant’s metal roof due to high winds and hurricane gusts. The site regained power eight days after Ian and running water was restored about a week ago.
For customers who frequent Bimini, the fish that inhabit the aquarium bar are all safe and have weathered the storm. “Everyone asks about the fish and I love it,” Lawrence said. “We haven’t lost a single fish. So the fish are taken care of and they will come back.
Lawrence is still awaiting insurance for the full cost of damages and repairs. “I saw some estimates,” she said. “They are very high, extremely high. With the cost of products and materials, metal has increased significantly. I await the final verdict.Lawrence says about 70% of Bimini’s 70 employees have been on the team for at least three years.
“For me personally, it breaks my heart that we can’t be open to staff,” she said. “I just got crushed. We have fantastic staff.
In the meantime, most Bimini employees have found temporary employment with the understanding that they will return to Bimini as soon as the doors open.
Some staff suffered extensive to complete damage to personal property, with some being temporarily displaced.
Fort Myers sports bar, Buckett’s Wings and More, hosts fundraisers where 10% of orders go to local restaurant staff affected by Hurricane Ian. Bimini Bait Shack night was Tuesday.
“What these owners do for the local community should be put on a pedestal,” Lawrence said. “It brings us together”
As repairs take place in the coming months, the Bimini team waits to return to where they call themselves family, relative to neighboring communities.
“We want to open as soon as possible as long as it doesn’t interfere with Sanibel, their reconstruction and their infrastructure,” Lawrence said. “I hope it’s soon. It’s a great place. We get to see everyone from all over the world, all the time. It’s a unique thing that the owners have created for us.